A Whale's Tale
Just after every New Year, the waters in
the Socorro Islands cool down a few degrees due to prevailing
ocean currents, and we go
on "whale watch", looking for our first Humpback Whales
of the season.
Each year, 40 ft. Humpbacks migrate from
Alaskan waters to the Socorro Islands (The Revillagigedos Archipelago)
to calve and breed.
We've witnessed this in each of the last 14 seasons in Socorro
(typically late January through early April), and it's a spectacular
display of nature! We hear plaintive "whale song" on
nearly every dive (the song changes each year, according to scientists),
and frequently see the whales cavorting topside.
As part of the courtship ritual, the whales "breach" (throwing
themselves out of the water to fall back with mighty crash), "spy-hop" (elevate
their heads to check out the Solmar V or its tenders), and repeatedly "tail-slap" the
surface with their giant tails.
In recent years, we've also had more underwater
encounters with humpbacks than ever before. Part of this is due
to learning how
to interact with the whales (we don't "chase" them, but
they are curious about our tenders and the Solmar V), and part
of this is also due to the whales becoming familiar with both our
vessel and divers.
Last year was an exceptionally good "whale season" and
ended with a fantastic whale's "tale". Apparently, one
of the Humpbacks gave birth to her calf late in the "season",
and remained with the calf in April and early May as the rest of
the whales left for Alaska. Her "escort" (another adult
whale, usually also female), also stayed.
With no other whales around, the cow, calf, and escort "adopted" the
Solmar V as their companion, and were seen frequently from the
boat and in the water. It was considered "quite routine" to
see the cow and calf on either side of the vessel for three back-to-back
trips. And for long periods of time!
spend a lot of time training their calves to be "independent" and
they stay very close to them right after birth as they teach them
basic skills. Over the next few weeks and months, however, the
mother and escort teach the young calf to be independent by letting
the calf venture farther and farther away from them while always
keeping a watchful eye. The calf (12-15 ft. in length) nurses during
this entire period while preparing for the migration back to Alaska.
The encounters were spectacular, and in early May,
the three whales departed.
We are looking forward to seeing all the
whales again this year (we just heard, yesterday, from our captain
at Roca Partida; the
Solmar V has already had one humpback swimming around the
boat for a half hour) and we have our fingers crossed that we'll
see our "special cow and calf" again this year.
Whale Season in the Socorros (The Revillagigedos Archipelago) is
just another fantastic part of our wilderness diving cruises, and
while we don't see as many Whale Sharks during this time of the
year, it's more than made up for by the Humpbacks. The manta activity
remains intense, as does the shark and fish activity that are also
the signature of Socorro diving.
Thanks, too, to photographer Eric Hanauer
for his shot of the cow/calf. You
may see a larger version of this wonderful image (and
it's WELL worth the mouse click) on his web site at www.ehanauer.com.
This article is from the Solmar
V eNEWS Article Archive